GDC 2012: Create, then game your own music with the PS Vita title, Sound Shapes

Say what you will about the PlayStation Vita, but one thing you cannot deny is that the launch titles have offered a little something for everyone. From franchise shooters to sports games, the Vita has been expanding its reach while also trying to give fans something new and original. Few games typify that as well as the upcoming title fro developer Queasy Games, Sound Shapes.

If you’ll notice, I have been careful not to use the word “game” to describe Sound Shapes, and with good reason. Sure, it is a game, and features both level creation and platforming, but focusing on that is missing the point. Sound Shapes is a rhythm-based musical experience that you control as if it were a game.

At first glance, it is a simple platforming game where you control an amorphous blob that can stick to certain surfaces, and you collect orbs as you try to progress from screen to screen while avoiding enemies and lasers. If you play without the sound on, that may be all that you take from it, which would be a shame.

With the sound on, you realize that to call it a game is only partially true. Sure, it is presented like a game, but it is more about the creation of music, and the platforming elements are simply a byproduct of that. The orbs you collect are actually notes, and the lasers are rhythm drums. The enemies are also part of the sounds, and completing each screen means completing a new section of the soundtrack.

With a soundtrack from Shaw-Han Liem, an electronic artist from Canada that performs under the name I Am Robot and Proud, Sound Shapes also allows you to create your own levels—and therefore your own tracks. Along with Liem, several other electronic artists will contribute tracks, including Deadmau5, and more will be announced soon.

In the level editor you can create a section however you like. Make it flat and run through notes in order, or give it terrain and make your blob avatar work for its sound. Add lasers that shoot our snare drum beats, or add an electronic harp as a reward for completing a section while hanging on the ceiling. There are dozens of options both in the geography of the level, as well as the sounds instruments you want to introduce. Once you are done, save it and upload it for others to check out and listen to, and download tracks/levels form others.

Sound Shapes basically takes the Vita and turns it into an interactive music creator for amateurs. The level editor is simple and easy to use, and uses the Vita’s touch screen to select what you want. The rear touchpad is used to place objects, angle, and re-shape obstacles. There are so many options that it will take adopters a while to learn them all, but the menu is slick and clean, and makes it easy to cycle through options.

To call Sound Shapes a game is simply not accurate, but to call it a pure music editor is overstating it—it falls somewhere in between. But more importantly, beyond what it can and cannot do is what it represents for the Vita. Sony is trying to ensure that its handheld device is more than just a smaller gaming system. Sound Shapes uses the hardware in ways that either weren’t possible on other systems before, or at least haven’t been done. For fans of music that own a Vita, this outside-the-box title is one to keep your eye on.

Sound Shapes is listed as a launch window title for the Vita. No exact date has been announced, but it is due soon.

Get our Top Stories delivered to your inbox: